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Q: Historic tradition of taking one's HAT off before entering a room ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: Historic tradition of taking one's HAT off before entering a room
Category: Reference, Education and News > General Reference
Asked by: meimei1965-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 31 Aug 2003 08:21 PDT
Expires: 30 Sep 2003 08:21 PDT
Question ID: 250753
I'm an elementary school teacher and our new school dress policy
states that children may not wear hats in the building, except for
recess and physical education.  We're trying to make the children more
respectful of their environment and I thought explaining the "history"
of this tradition may help them understand the no-hat rule.
Subject: Re: Historic tradition of taking one's HAT off before entering a room
Answered By: bobbie7-ga on 31 Aug 2003 10:29 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello meimei1965,  

According to the Dictionary of Phrase and Fable by E. Cobham Brewer,
the custom of taking off the hat is:

“A relic of the ancient custom of taking off the helmet when no danger
is nigh. A man takes off his hat to show that he dares stand unarmed
in your presence.”

Other interesting customs about salutations are:

Shaking hands is “A relic of the ancient custom of adversaries, in
treating of a truce, taking hold of the weapon-hand to ensure against

Lady's curtsey is “A relic of the ancient custom of women going on the
knee to men of rank and power, originally to beg mercy, afterwards to
acknowledge superiority.”

Source: The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable



“Taking the hat off is the modern remains of the ancient custom of
Knights who removed their helmets in the presence of those they felt
their friends and thus, before those they wished to honor by showing
that they trusted them.  A man removes his hat before a woman to show
his respect.  Touching the brim is but a perfunctory salute.”


From Yahoo Groups:

“You are all familiar with western custom of handshake or taking off
your cap or hat when entering into a home, a restaurant, theatre. But,
do you know how that custom emerged?”

“Taking off hat/cap - in medieval Europe knights and soldiers had a
helmet as a protection. Entering a home with a helmet on was a cause
of serious concern. It was considered entirely unfriendly and a new
custom emerged of taking of helmet and later whatever you were wearing
on your head (ladies excluded).”

Yahoo Groups


Here is the origin of lifting one’s the hat:

"In the days of knight errantry, every one meeting a stranger had to
suppose him an enemy; ten to one he was. And the sign and proof of
friendly intention was raising the right hand without a weapon in it.
The hand was raised high, to be seen as far as they could shoot with a
bow, and a further proof was added when they raised the vizor and
exposed the face. The danger of the highway continued long after
knights ceased to wear armour; so, with the same meaning, the same
gesture was used, but with a lifting of the hat. If a man did not do
it, he was either showing contempt or hostility for the other, or
proving himself an ignorant brute. So, in all civilized countries,
lifting the hat is a sign of mutual confidence and respect."


Military Protocol:

“Since the first days of military organizations, juniors have always
uncovered when addressing seniors. This was done by touching the hat
or cap with the right hand or taking it off. If the person was not
wearing a hat or cover, they would grab a "lock of hair".

“In the late 19th century, Queen Victoria decreed that the hand salute
was to be used instead of taking your hat or cap off. This decree came
about because military members would uncover in the presence of the
queen during official ceremonies and this was considered

ATDSR: Military Protocol


“In ancient times, in all oriental countries and even in Rome and
Greece, slaves had to go about bare-headed and bare-footed, reflecting
their status in society. When a kind master would decide to free a
slave, he would symbolically place a cap on his (i.e. the slave's)
head and restore his freedom and respectability in society. Wearing a
cap, therefore, is not only a mark of respectability, but also
offering respect to another. The Western custom of doffing one’s hat
is a symbol of humility, as if to express, "I am your slave." On
formal parade duties, however, the salute is generally offered with
hats on.

Best of "Deen Parast"
Article II: Youth Page



“The style of salutation differs among nations, but there have been
none yet discovered so low in the social scale as to be entirely
destitute of some sign for expressions of respect or fear between man
and man. Fear is, perhaps, the origin of respect, for every form of
salutation among us to-day may be traced back to a source that
plainly affirms it to be the survival of some attitude of deference
from the conquered to the conqueror, or some habit of adoration of an
unseen Power.”

Source: Case Western Reserve University


Search Criteria:

Tradition of taking hat off before entering a room
Custom taking the hat off 
The custom of taking hat off
History of taking hat off
Origin taking hat off before entering a room
Salutations history OR origin
doff one's hat custom OR tradition OR origin

I hope the above information helps you in your research. If anything
is unclear please request clarification and I'll be glad to offer
further assistance before you rate my answer

Best Regards,
meimei1965-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $2.00
Excellent, fast, and right to the point - great research!

Subject: Re: Historic tradition of taking one's HAT off before entering a room
From: ephraim-ga on 31 Aug 2003 10:46 PDT

Bobbie's answer starts with the following quote: "A relic of the
ancient custom of adversaries." The key word here is "relic."

My personal opinion is that this custom is a relic whose time has come
and long gone. The answer, as Bobbie has shown, is buried in ancient
customs and long since made irrelevant. Most people who follow it seem
to know nothing more than "it's polite" and have no understanding of
why something as silly as having a head covering might be considered

I've visited many places where I've been asked to remove my hat as a
sign of respect. I'll always comply, since I believe that it's
appropriate to follow and respect local custom and to show respect to
the person whose home/monument/whatever I happen to be visiting, but I
also believe that it's long past time for people to see this custom as
a silly relic with no purpose in today's society.

If you're a teacher, I'd advise you to point out the following to
whomever decided to put this rule into writing for your school:

* Asking a male Sikh to remove his turban is considered no different
than asking him to remove all his clothing in public. In fact, some
have won discrimination lawsuits regarding situations where they were
denied service because somebody believed that "it's impolite to wear a
hat indoors."

* Observant Jewish males believe that a head covering is a sign of
respect for God above you. I've personally witnessed a situation where
a teacher demanded that a Jewish student remove his hat, completely
oblivious to the fact that the student viewed his hat as a sign of
respect. There are also many Jewish sects where not wearing a black
hat might actually be interpreted as a sign of disrespect.

* Both observant Muslim women and observant married Jewish women
believe that they must cover their hair.

Just some food for thought. Symbols are considered "polite" or
"impolite" for reasons. If the reason for a custom to be considered
"impolite" is due to some irrelevant ancient custom or "just because,"
I'd advise asking the people who put this rule into writing to
reconsider why it's so important to them.

Subject: Re: Historic tradition of taking one's HAT off before entering a room
From: bobbie7-ga on 31 Aug 2003 11:45 PDT
Thank you for the five stars and tip!

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